Forced out of his cabinet position, the Tati West MP Moyo Guma, has proposed a radical measure whose application could spell similar fate for his former boss.
If the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Kenneth Matambo, feels that any National Development Plan 11 funds could be redirected to help resuscitate Selebi Phikwe, the law empowers him to invoke Section 28 of the Public Finance Management Act to redirect such funds. In terms of that section, “moneys shall not be withdrawn from the Consolidated Fund except upon the authority of a warrant under the hand of the Minister, and such warrant shall not be issued unless the withdrawal may lawfully be made in accordance with Section 118 (1) of the Constitution.” The latter section says that “No moneys shall be withdrawn from the Consolidated Fund except to meet expenditure that is charged upon the Fund by this Constitution or by any Act of Parliament.” Section 28 (2) of the Public Finance Management Act gives Matambo powers to exercise the sort of discretion that Guma believes can rescue Selebi Phikwe: “The unspent balance of any warrant issued under this section may at any time be withdrawn or reduced by the Minister if in his or her opinion, the exigencies of the financial situation render such withdrawal or reduction expedient.”
Down the line during this special session of parliament, ministers will make sectoral presentations and Guma has proposed that at that stage, parliament should be allowed to “see where we can make savings” and has also recommended a reconfiguration of projects to “assist the poor people” of Selebi Phikwe.
“There is no point in building roads in areas that do not assist us with economic growth even if it gives us political advantage. Look, at some point in time if it means me losing my popularity and losing a constituency but the country benefits, so be it. We should do that. All infrastructural development must be geared towards economic growth and we need to have that financial discipline,” Guma said when contributing to the ongoing debate on the NDP 11 motion.
He added that the minister himself had to exercise that discipline in line with the powers given to him by the Public Finance Management Act.
“The Act allows you to issue a withdrawal warrant and direct funds to other projects that are going to assist us,” Guma said.
A former civil servant and former assist finance minister, Guma fully appreciates the extent to which national development plans are tainted with what Americans calls pork-barrel politics. On the basis of what the Public Finance Management Act and the constitution says and without ever having to consult cabinet or President Ian Khama, Matambo can rearrange the project funding schedule to allocate more funds to the revival of Selebi Phikwe. However, doing that might interfere with NDP 11’s political programme and come with great cost to the ruling party at the next general election.